The Music and Dance Behind Thumbelina

Published in Pasadena Now: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | 12:11 PM


We took some time with Dwight Mikkelsen and Jaclyn Stryker to talk about their life and work experiences

If the heart of a ballet is the music, the lifeblood are the dancers. We take some time to have a chat with composer Dwight Mikkelsen and dancer Jaclyn Stryker to get an inside look on the people behind California Contemporary Ballet’s Thumbelina.

The Musician

“I like classical music. That’s the first music I ever started writing and I’ve never stopped and I keep doing and doing it,” says Mikkelsen. “I’m also a writer. I have a book that’s coming out in July, in the middle of July,” he adds.

Mikkelsen’s book is called Freedom’s Rush and it’s about his travels throughout the Western half of the United States on a motorcycle. But making music is who he is.

Mikkelsen has been working with Aerin Holt, the Company’s Artistic Director, since “I think two or three years ago,” says Mikkelsen. The dynamic between Holt and Mikkelsen is one brought on by years of friendship, and is evident in how the two work together.

“If she has an idea, it’s clear when she can let me take off with it. And sometimes I’m not quite sure about something and so I just let Erin take off with it,” says Mikkelsen.

With the Company’s latest production, Thumbelina, Mikkelsen says his job is to write and record the music. “I decided on an orchestra; 9 woodwinds, 11 brass, 2 percussions, and 2 harps and strings. So I just kept it with that, and it’s been a bit of a challenge not having a piano but honestly, piano doesn’t really belong in an orchestra,” he says.

Mikkelsen is handling both the writing/composing and recording aspects of the ballet, and as a result, he isn’t getting much sleep. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love what he does.

“It’s just the nature of that kind of work when you’re orchestrating, arranging and even copying, it’s always last minute. you’re merely totally restless when you do something. That’s part of the gig. If sleep is that important to you, you need to find another line of work,” says Mikkelsen.

“I like to have fun, I just like to have a good time, that’s why we’re doing it and having a good time doing it. Sometimes you have a good time playing pool and drinking beer and then when you get to work it’s sort of boring. I like to have fun doing the music, that’s what I like to do,” adds Mikkelsen.

The Dancer

Jaclyn Stryker is the lead dancer in Thumbelina. To appreciate the art, sometimes it’s necessary to understand the artist.
Dancing is in Stryker’s blood. She tells us: “I started dancing when I was about five, 20-plus years. I started dancing with Aerin (Holt) at California DanceArts when I was about 9 and I grew up with her in her school and then also I graduated from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and so I was dancing for both her and that school during high school.”

After getting a bachelor’s degree for Fine Arts and Dance at UC Santa Barbara, Stryker returned to join Holt and California Contemporary Ballet, dancing with the company for two years until she “moved up to San Francisco and danced professionally with Mark Foehringer Dance Project and Napoles Ballet Theater,” says Stryker.

Stryker talks about her lead role as Thumbelina, saying “It’s been wonderful. Since I was younger, Aerin always talked about wanting to do a big production of Thumbelina and so when she contacted me back in February, it was an opportunity to get back into working with her again.”

When asked of the working relationship between Holt and Mikkelsen, Stryker says both “have a really great collaboration going and they’re very open to adjusting things that may not be working for the other person which is really nice because the end result is going to be exactly what they wanted it to be.”

The Show

Mikkelsen and Stryker have their own views about the production of course, with one looking at things from a musician’s standpoint while the other as a dancer.

Mikkelsen says, “I think this ballet is very unique. It’s just unique. It’s going to be a sound phenomenon. Once I record this stuff, I’m going to have it mastered and with the back tracks and the story itself; it’s unique, it’s never been done before.”

Stryker, on the other hand, says, “It’s all very, very grand. So it’s fun. Thumbelina meets all these different animals and characters so it’s definitely action-packed throughout.”

Mikkelsen adds, “Thumbelina has been done before but it’s a ballet on a grand scale. It’s over 90 minutes of music. And as I said, in these days, doing 90 minutes of music with no piano that alone is great; it makes it unique. No rhythm section, no guitars, no electricity, no electronics.”

When asked about her favorite scene, Stryker tell us, “I love the scene with the beetles. All these dancers are up on this large apparatus and it just looks like this huge swarm of beetles and I’m kind of getting thrown all over the place and covered with these different beetle characters. It’s just a very fast-paced, fun, exciting number in the show that kind of shows some different elements other than just dance.”

Thumbelina will be performed at Glendale Community College at 1500 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale and show dates will be on June 29th at 7:30 pm, and June 30th at 2:00 pm.

Tickets are available at $20 to $30 and can be purchased at Group tickets are also available.

To learn more about California Contemporary Ballet, you can visit or call (818) 790-7924.

A Thumbs-Up Spring-time Ballet Production

Published in Pasadena Now: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 | 12:55 PM


On June 29 and 30, California Contemporary Ballet will perform Thumbelina, a classic fairy-tale adapted for ballet that will endear kids and adults alike

Kick off the Spring season with a dose of fairy dust, as California Contemporary Ballet performs Thumbelina at Glendale Community College this June 29 and 30.
Adding to the company’s tradition of performing Hans Christian Andersen classics, California Contemporary Ballet’s adaptation of Thumbelina is designed to appeal to both young and adult audiences.

“We perform two big productions a year. Our biggest production is the Snow Queen Ballet which we perform every December at Glendale Community College and then we deliver a spring show, featuring members of our professional company, which is normally a much smaller production, and usually features choreography that is experimental and contemporary,” says Aerin Holt, the Company’s Artistic Director.

“This year, we decided on a spring performance that would provide opportunities for our professional dancers to perform the principal characters within the story and cast members of our Youth Company in supporting roles. Students from the associated school, California DanceArts were given the opportunity to audition for roles and some of the children were cast in roles of Dew Drops and Younger Fairies. We found that the young dancers really benefit from working along-side more experienced dancers.” Holt explains.

“What’s a story about Fairies without young children,” she adds.

Just because the story is about a diminutive fairy, does not mean the production will be.
Holt also tells us that aside from her direction, the production also utilizes the talents of guest choreographer, Lynn Bryson Pittenger.

“She’s working on certain areas of the ballet and that’s going really well and she’s great to work with,” says Holt.

Ballet fans will notice that Thumbelina is not your typical ballet production. Far from the usual Romeo & Juliet or Nutcracker Suite performances, the Company decided to be a little more adventurous. Why choose Thumbelina?

“Thumbelina is a story that I always felt would make a great ballet. As a young dance student, I often daydreamed about Thumbelina dancing in her giant tulip. I envisioned huge flowers and toadstools but was unsure how I would be able to develop all that I envisioned on stage. Through the years of creating choreography and directing ballets my ideas have evolved. Dwight agreed to compose the music and volunteers came forward to create the huge set pieces. The time is right and everything has come together nicely,” says Holt.

In the spirit of the ever popular Cirque du Soleil culture, Holt tells us, “in Thumbelina, we have an aerialist who performs as the spider and it’s very exciting to see her perform on her net. It’s also challenging as she performs 20 feet in the air.”

Many might think that Thumbelina will be geared towards younger audiences, but Holt tells us otherwise.

“The more I’m working it, the more I really, really love how it’s developing. Together with the choreography that we are developing and with Dwight’s music that he’s producing for us and the talents that we have on the stage, this is a really cool ballet,” she says.

Holt also adds that the production will “utilize a lot of different dance styles as well as the viewpoint, the perspective of a tiny little dancer and making my entire company look like little tiny people, and I think that’s exciting. It will be a show that both children and adults will enjoy.”

Tickets are $20 to $30 and can be purchased at Group tickets are also available for purchase.

Glendale Community College is located as 1500 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale and show dates will be on June 29th at 7:30 pm, and June 30th at 2:00 pm.

To learn more about California Contemporary Ballet, you can visit or call (818) 790-7924.

California Contemporary Ballet Announces Fundraising Campaign for Summer Performance of “Thumbelina”

Local Ballet Company Soon to Premiere Latest Production; Requests Support from Patrons of the Arts

La Cañada, CA — Aerin Holt of California Contemporary Ballet (, the originator of the celebrated ballet “The Snow Queen, has initiated a campaign on the web site to raise funds for the upcoming June 29 premiere of their newest major original ballet production of “Thumbelina.”

Ms. Holt, who first adapted Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “The Snow Queen” into a highly successful seasonal ballet fifteen years ago, felt it was time to create a new ballet for her company—and it was only fitting that the inspiration sprang from the same classic source. When she mentioned the ballet to her friend Mikkelsen, a prolific classical composer, she was surprised and delighted with his immediate enthusiasm for the idea. He began work at once on compositions, and Ms. Holt admitted herself “delighted with his musical interpretations.”

The surprises continued when she received an offer from a family member to make the large flowers using scrap metal from his property in New Mexico. A series of conversations ensued about the design of the set pieces, ultimately leading to the creation of ten-foot tall flowers, five-foot toadstools, and the famous tulip from which Thumbelina is born. The newly-designed tulip will operate by means of a hydraulic system, enabling its petals to open at the appropriate moment. To crown the bright reality of Ms. Holt's dreamed-of set, these expensive pieces were offered as a donation, giving Ms. Holt the impetus needed to go forward with her production immediately.

In an effort to secure additional much-needed financial support for the ballet, the Company is working on a broad fundraising campaign. “Expenses for a production like this are considerably greater than many people recognize,” says Ms. Holt. “Theater costs, sets, costumes, promotion—it all adds up to much more than you might expect.” To help in funding all these costs, the Company has established a donation page where anyone may make a donation:

Jaclyn Stryker, the star in the upcoming premiere of the Thumbelina ballet received her core dance training from Ms. Holt's dance academy and tells us, “It's been Aerin's dream to create this ballet for as far back as I can remember. She made it sound fantastic, and I wanted to be a part of it. I'm very happy that the time for it has finally come!”

“Thumbelina” by California Contemporary Ballet Los Angeles premieres at Glendale Community College (1500 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, CA) on June 29th at 7:30 PM, and on June 30th at 2:00 PM. To donate in support of the production, visit

Tickets are $20–$30 at Group tickets are also available.

California Contemporary Ballet Announces Premiere of New Spring Time Production “Thumbelina”

Local Ballet Company Presents New Original Performance in Glendale, Featuring Local Professional and Amateur Talent

La Cañada, CA — Aerin Holt of California Contemporary Ballet (, the originator of the popular ballet “The Snow Queen,” has created a production she has long dreamed of: a full-length ballet adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s story “Thumbelina.” Jaclyn Stryker, a professional dancer and resident of La Crescenta, stars in the title role.

Featuring original choreography by Aerin Holt and an original musical score by composer and orchestrator Dwight Bernard Mikkelsen, the performance will be premiering in Glendale on June 29th and 30th. “Thumbelina” ballet, like “The Snow Queen,” is a classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the author of such immortal fables as “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” and “The Ugly Duckling.”

Having produced the popular seasonal piece “The Snow Queen” for fifteen consecutive years, Ms. Holt felt it was time to create a new ballet for her company. “Thumbelina is a story that I've thought about for a long time,” she says. “I had a certain ideal for the music, and I envisioned a set with oversized flowers and toadstools that would create a world in which my dancers could appear tiny—the size of your thumb.”

Jaclyn Stryker warms up in a corner of the studio, quietly wincing at the pain from a sore muscle in her hip. But, continues to extend her right foot high above her head and stretching it around into an arabesque. Ms. Stryker, a resident of La Crescenta, has recently returned to her roots in Los Angeles’ foothill communities from San Francisco, where she performed with several professional dance companies.

The star of the piece, Ms. Stryker, who received her core dance training from California Dance Arts and who has danced already in many original roles under Aerin Holt's artistic direction, has often heard Ms. Holt speak about creating a ballet adapted from Andersen’s story of Thumbelina. “It's been Aerin's dream to create this ballet for as long as I can remember,” says Ms. Stryker. “She made it sound fantastic and I wanted to be a part of it.”

When Ms. Holt first spoke of the idea to friend and prolific classical composer Dwight Bernard Mikkelsen of Lakeview Terrace, Mikkelsen loved the idea, and immediately began composing music in earnest. “I was very impressed with his musical interpretations,” says Holt.

Ms. Holt is largely responsible for the ballet's choreography, but she was delighted to collaborate with Lynn Bryson Pittenger on certain sections of the ballet, very much including the delivery of the final scene: Thumbelina's arrival at the Vale of the Fairies. This is the scene in which Holt plans to create the essence of a fairy world. Thanks to donations and volunteer contributions of work and materials, the sets will indeed include ten foot tall flowers, some five foot toadstools, and the famous tulip from which Thumbelina is born—which will actually open its petals to release her onto the stage.

“The story of Thumbelina is certainly a child's fairy tale,” maintains Holt. “However, through quality music, choreography and dancing, it can be told with depth and emotion so adults can appreciate it as well.” With a melding of contemporary dance, classical ballet and aerial arts, this performance is an excellent choice for the entire family.

“Thumbelina” by California Contemporary Ballet Los Angeles premieres at Glendale Community College (1500 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, CA) on June 29th at 7:30 PM, and on June 30th at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $20–$30 at Group tickets are also available.

Brand New Production by California Contemporary Ballet – Thumbelina!

California Contemporary Ballet is pleased to announce our newest ballet, Thumbelina, a full-length ballet based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen, with original choreography by Aerin Holt and original music by Dwight Mikklesen.

California DanceArts encourages all students and dancers to participate in, and take advantage of, this new opportunity. If you had the good fortune of participating in CCB's The Snow Queen ballet this past December, then you know what a joy it is for both young and mature dancers to take part in such a production.  As you will soon discover, our Thumbelina will present dancers with yet another rewarding performance opportunity.

Illustration by CapturedbyKC. Some rights reserved.

Audtions for Thumbelina will be this

Friday & Saturday, Feb 1-2, 2013

(Auditions for principal roles Thur, Feb 7)

The original ballet, based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen, will be presented by
California Contemporary Ballet June 28-30th at Glendale Community College Theater

Click here to see video from our
previous production, The Snow Queen.

Auditions to be held at:
California DanceArts
4490 Cornishon Ave
La Canada, CA 91011

Auditioning children must be currently enrolled in weekly ballet classes and must bring a recommendation from their current instructor
(CCB is a non-profit organization that is separate from the California DanceArts School. CDA School is not responsible for casting any of the roles, and CCB is not obligated to cast children from CDA. CCB encourages dancers from all L.A. area dance schools to audition.)

Friday Feb 1st at 6:00pm (Sign-in @ 5pm) Auditions for Young Dancers
Young Chorus are girls and boys UNDER 11 years of age.

Young Chorus will perform one or more of the following roles:

* Dew Drops (no taller than 44 inches) – Children must be able to skip well to be cast in any role.

* Young Fairies, Mice
* Potential roles for a few children
(no taller than 4ft, 11in)

Saturday Feb 2nd at 2:00pm (sign in @ 1:00pm) Aerial & Gymnast Auditions
Open to dancers, gymnasts, aerialists

* Fairies and Beetles

Saturday Feb 2nd at 3:00pm (sign in @ 2:00pm) Auditions for Older Dancers 11+ yrs
Older Chorus Dancers (boys and girls)

May be cast as any of the following potential roles:

* Fairies, Butterflies, Mice, Beetles, Trees, Water & Swamp Grass Dancers

Members of California Contemporary Youth Ballet will perform multiple older chorus roles. We are looking for new members for our company and additional dancers for certain roles.

Thursday, Feb 7th – Auditions for Principal Roles
CCB & CCYB Members should attend

We are
seeking professional & pre-professional men & women ballet and contemporary dancers to fill Principal, Soloist and Lead roles. Pointe & partnering required. Salary based on experience. Send photo and résumé either by e-mail, U.S. mail or FAX to:
California Contemporary Ballet
4490 Cornishon Ave #6
La Canada, CA 91011
FAX: 501-641-7117
PH: 818-790-7924

Potential solo and principal roles include:
Thumbelina, Mother, Prince Fairy, Toad(s), The Butterfly, The Beetle, The Mole,
The Field Mouse, The Swallow, The King and Queen Fairy, The Fairy of Hopefulness,
The Fairy of Resourcefulness, The Fairy of Faithfulness, The Fairy of Accomplishment,
The Fairy of Confidence, and a trio of Flower Fairies.

ALL dancers at all auditions should bring photo, résumé, $5 audition fee (not required for professional dancers), dance attire and ballet or Pointe shoes. Everyone will audition in groups. Please arrive early for sign-In.

For audition information
call (818) 790-7924

or visit us at: 

California Contemporary Ballet to Show Special Retrospective Video of 14 Years of “The Snow Queen”

LA CANADA, CA: In celebration of their 15 years presenting “The Snow Queen,” California Contemporary Ballet ( will be releasing a short video to be seen just prior to the performances of the ballet on December 21st, 22nd, and 23rd. The video will document the progression of the ballet over the course of the past 14 years.

The show’s producers hope that the video will capture some of the past costumes, sets, cast members and memorable moments. In addition to being the ballet’s composer, Randall Michael Tobin is producing the retrospective video. Mr. Tobin has also produced many of the past yearly videos for “The Snow Queen.”

Holt says, “We decided that since we have been doing this show for 15 years, and since the show really has evolved from the early days to today, that it would great to show a retrospective video so people could see some of the great moments and how the show has changed. Mr. Tobin’s contributions to our company and to ‘The Snow Queen’ have been immense. I trust his commitment to high standards and excellence. Creating this project with him has been a great creative journey.” 

The video will be seen just prior to the show’s opening curtain and audiences are encouraged to arrive early so that they are certain not to miss it.

“The Snow Queen” will appear at the Glendale Community College Theater on Friday, December 21 at 7:30pm, Saturday, December 22 at 2:00pm and Sunday, December 23 at 2:00pm. Tickets in advance: $20-$25 At Door: $25-$30 Discounts available for groups. Tickets are available at or or by calling 818-790-7924.

15th Anniversary of California Contemporary Ballet’s “The Snow Queen” Seasonal Extravaganza

Local Ballet Company Presents Performance in Glendale, Featuring Local Professional and Amateur Talent in a Festive Display of Ballet, Contemporary Dance, Aerial Arts, and Gymnastics

La Cañada, CA: California Contemporary Ballet ( and will present the 15th anniversary showing of the original ballet “The Snow Queen,” with three shows on December 21st, 22nd and 23rd. The ballet, first shown in 1998, is the brainchild of Artistic Director Aerin Holt and composer Randall Michael Tobin, and is based on the classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen.

For 15 years, Aerin Holt has served as Artistic Director of this holiday classic. With sold-out performances each year, Ms. Holt and her Company might be inclined to wax nostalgic, but they show no signs of slowing down. Instead, they are gearing up for a dazzling anniversary extravaganza to mark their 15th season at the Glendale Community College Theater, with an evening performance at 7:30pm on December 21st, and matinees at 2:00pm on December 22nd and 23rd.

In 2007, Holt took her dance company, California Contemporary Ballet, which had previously been a youth company, and converted it into a professional dance company with professional dancers. Together with its existing youth company members, the performing troupe put together an artfully integrated cast for “The Snow Queen” comprised of professional and youth talent to fill the principal roles of the ballet.

Each year since then, the professional company dancers are supported by dancers, actors and gymnasts from the community in chorus roles, resulting in a 65-member cast from Los Angeles and the local communities of Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, and Pasadena.

This year, “The Snow Queen” will feature new professional talent performing the starring roles including Lauren Farrell (from Burbank), who was personally selected by Holt to perform the title role of the Snow Queen.

In an effort to keep the show fresh, Holt continually changes many of the roles and conducts auditions every season. “In fifteen years, we’ve had fifteen casts,” Holt boasts. She also enjoys reworking the choreography to fit the talent of her cast members. While The Snow Queen may be touted as a ballet, Ms. Holt infuses each performance with classical and contemporary dance styles that weave together the classic winter-time tale by Hans Christian Andersen.

Further changes to the production have included the introduction of aerial arts, where “creatures” resembling wolves, panthers, leopards and other wild animals perform on hanging silk scarves as the Snow Queen delicately balances 40 feet in the air on a hanging hoop. Indeed, Ms. Farrell finds the aerial aspect of her role to be challenging. A trained ballerina, Farrell is getting a crash course in aerial ballet. “I’m really excited and look forward to performing aerial. An opportunity to learn and to perform a role like this is exciting”.

Also featured in this year’s production is Lissa Farrington (La Crescenta), as she skillfully blends dance and gymnastics in the role of The Crow. Dancer Julia Houser (La Cañada Flintridge), and a long-time member of the youth company, will be featured in the role as Gypsy Girl, a role that requires both dance and gymnastic skills. A seasoned aerialist, Houser is also featured on the aerial scarves and is seen performing many dazzling moves before falling in a death-defying drop, catching herself mere inches from the floor. Holt adds, “It was always my intention to integrate circus arts into the ballet, thereby creating an atmosphere of the fantastic.”

Holt set out to create a new ballet tradition and the Company’s 15-year evolution is living proof of her success. A cursory search of the internet reveals that the Snow Queen has grown in popularity as more companies appear to be producing the story as either a ballet or play. Holt firmly maintains that her Company blazed a trail by being the first to adapt the story for ballet, and it has evolved into an annual December production much like the Nutcracker. California Contemporary Ballet’s Snow Queen has become a community favorite for the holidays and offers a seasonal, family-friendly alternative to the myriad of Nutcracker productions, at affordable ticket rates.

The Snow Queen will appear at the Glendale Community College Theater on Friday, December 21 at 7:30pm, Saturday, December 22 at 2:00pm and Sunday, December 23 at 2:00pm. Tickets in advance: $20-$25 At Door: $25-$30 Discounts available for groups. Tickets are available at or or by calling 818-790-7924.

Czech Republic Experience

Originally written August 2007
by Aerin Holt

Summer 2007, the fortunate students of California DanceArts located in La Canada, CA, prepared for the ultimate summer experience with a 4 week program provided by the Los Angeles International Ballet Intensive. Foreign students from as far away as Mexico, Canada and France joined local students to study with the school’s faculty including guest teachers Molly Lynch and Israel Gabriel from the University of California Irvine, Preston Lee from the National Ballet of China, jazz teacher Steven Woodruff and Aerialist Rachel Bowman who introduced students to the exciting new world of aerial ballet.
Ten students from the LA intensive were chosen to participate for another challenging four weeks in the city of Ostrava, Czech Republic. I was honored to be an invited guest teacher and choreographer in coordination with the Prague International Ballet. The students and I were given the opportunity to work with an amazing faculty including Igor Vejsada-director of the Ostrava Ballet and Yehuda Maor, former principal dancer of Bat Dor Dance Company. Furthermore, California Contemporary Ballet was invited to perform works of my original choreography for their own evening at the famous Janacek Conservatory. The work was entitled, “Blind Journey” and debuted in Los Angeles earlier in the year. Upon seeing the choreography, Maor felt that the audience in Ostrava would welcome the company. Soon after, an invitation arrived for the company to perform. The evening was captured on Czech television. It was a glowing evening for all. A few days later the dancers performed along with other students from the workshop with an array of choreography from the workshops stellar faculty.  Days of site seeing with visits to Prague Castle and St. Charles Bridge ensued before returning home for a break before classes at California DanceArts started again for the fall. I don’t think any of us will forget our experience in the Czech Republic.

Students meet Legend in Austria

written August 2005
Was published in DanceZime for
the Dance Resource Center of Los Angeles
written by
Aerin Holt

     Photo-Maya Plisetskaya with Aerin Holt

 Salzburg, Austria is a city rich in history and culture. It was home to Mozart and has since become the modern-day cultural mecca of Europe. The majestic Alps provide an amazing backdrop for the steeples erected in the traditional style of European architecture that comprise the skyline of Salzburg. Being surrounded by such breath-taking beauty and culture, what young musician, dancer or poet doesn’t dream of one day performing on the stage of one of Salzburg’s many grand historic theaters?

This past summer, nine dancers from California DanceArts were given such an opportunity. Accompanied by ten other dancers from across the country, these fortunate dance students were  to participate in a rigorous 4-week dance program offered by the Salzburg International Ballet Academy or SIBA. I had been given permission to select dancers to the workshop by audition.  Upon our arrival in Salzburg,  we American dancers were joined by nearly 20 additional Intermediate to-professional level dancers from all over Europe to take advantage of this advanced training.

I was flattered to receive, and indeed accepted, an invitation to join the ranks of an array of world-renown dance educators and performers to serve as a guest instructor. Each guest instructor was given the opportunity to teach a variety of master classes and lectures to the attending students. One such star of the summer program was the famous Maya Plisetskaya who became a principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet in 1943. She became and remained the company’s prima ballerina throughout the 1960’s and was awarded the highest honor of Prima Ballerina Assoluta, thereby establishing herself as one of the 20th century’s greatest ballerinas. Students were given the rare opportunity to meet and attend a lecture given by Ms. Plisetskaya. Having the distinct pleasure of seeing her dance and demonstrate movement was an event these students are unlikely ever to forget. Now in her 70’s, she is still very agile as she demonstrated, with ultimate grace, the amazing port de bras, a type of movement with the arms for which she became famous while performing such dances as the Dying Swan. The students worked arduously in daily dance classes, followed by evening rehearsals with international ballet stars and principal dancer with the London Festival Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Guest teachers prepared students to perform variations from many ballet classics such as Giselle and Don Quixote in preparation for the closing gala performance.
Despite these physical demands, the dancers mustered the energy to tour Salzburg’s old city with its grand churches overlooked by a fortress situated high on a mountain. When time allowed, many students relaxed at the outdoor cafa’s and pubs and several took advantage of the many interesting shops offered in the city. Several California DanceArts students also took the rare opportunity to accompany me on weekend excursions to Vienna, Austria and Venice, Italy. Notice the photo of happy travelers in Venice!
On our final day, students were delighted to see the residents of Salzburg fill the seats as dancers prepared for their performance, marking the end of the summer intensive program. Several California DanceArts students were awarded soloist roles and were highlighted in the program. At its conclusion, tearful good-byes and hugs were exchanged as we climbed into shuttles, prepared to whisk the dancers to the airport for the 15- hour return flight back home. Armed with newly acquired skills, an immersion in a new culture, plenty of souvenirs and a touch of German in our vocabularies, these dancers and this teacher will forever continue to reminisce about this Experience of a Lifetime.

Maya Plisetskaya and her husband the composer Rodion Schdedrin, where the honorary guests at the Salzburg International Ballet Academy 2005 Summer Workshop. Ms. Plisetskaya viewed classes, gave lectures and provided students with the rare opportunity to meet one of the 20th centuries greatest ballerinas. Maya Plisetskaya also signed copies of her autobiography bestseller, “I’m Maya”.

California Dance Arts News for April

Lasting Memories Of Your Favorite Dancer!
Snow Queen Prints Available for Purchase!

Beautiful photos were taken during last year’s production of The Snow Queen—performance shots, rehearsals, backstage shots—by Kathy Hanson Photography and are now available for purchase!

Hundreds of photos of the 2011 Snow Queen cast are available. You can order prints in various sizes and formats—small, large, glossy, matte, framed, canvas, etc. You can even get t-shirts, mugs, playing cards, etc with the images of your child or favorite Snow Queen cast members!

View the colorful, professional-quality photos at these links:

Add your choices to your cart and choose the format. Prices will vary depending on size, format, etc.

If you have any questions about ordering, contact California DanceArts at or contact Kathy Hanson Photography at


Summer Intensive Auditions – April 14, 2012

Auditions will be held again for California DanceArts:
Youth Ballet Intensive
Sat. April 14 at 9:30am
(Level 1 and Level 2 students may audition)

Los Angeles Int’l Ballet Intensive
Sat. April 14 at 12:00pm
(Level 3 and above may audition)


Ballet Basics: How To Make A Ballet Bun

It is part of good traditional ballet training to learn to create a proper ballet bun and to learn to do it quickly.

California DanceArts requires all students to have their hair fastened securely out of the face and off of the neck. Young ladies should have nice pretty ballet buns in class just as they must have for performances. It is a matter of creating good habits for performance and giving dancers the opportunity to work without the distraction of hair in the face and eyes. Some movements are thrown off by the weight of the hair when it is loose.

Although not acceptable for performances, occasionally when you are really in a bind– running late to class or mom is away and dad is left to handle the bun making, for instance–there are handy “Bear Claw” clips that can be purchased at any drug store. By twisting the hair up as described above and securing it with the ‘Bear Claw,’ the bun is made fast and secure without bobby pins.

Here’s how to make a good bun:

Brush your hair; make sure that there are no tangles.

Pull back into a ponytail using a comb or brush to remove the bumps. If necessary, spray the hair with a quick-drying hairspray (an inexpensive brand is okay). You have already used a comb or brush to remove the lumps, so now you can use hairspray (optional, depends on the style of your hair) to smooth with your hand all of those wisps up and into the bun.

Put an extra rubber band around your ponytail, just for extra security. It is important to have a strong foundation for your bun so it doesn’t fall down.

Separate hair into 2 equal sections.

Take one half and twist the whole strand together, tightly.

Tightly wind the strand of hair around the ponytail holder, as if curling around it, not over it. You should probably use heavy-duty hairpins such as Scunci Bobby Pins to hold up your hair. They are about $2.00 for 18. Most people find that an actual hair pin versus a bobby pin can hold their hair better. You will want to get the thicker kind, especially if you have thick or curly hair, because the thin ones are easily bent out of shape.

Securely fasten the hair. You can do this by putting a bobby pin in like your bun like it was a clock. 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock. If the first half of your bun feels a little shaky, put more bobby pins in where desired.

Repeat these same steps for the second half of your ponytail.

For extra security, cover your bun with a hair net that matches your hair color. (Hint: If you have blonde hair, don’t use the gray hair net because then your bun looks purple. If you’re a brunette, don’t use the blonde hair net because then you have a lighter bun than the rest of your hair and that gives you the air of being unprofessional and/or colorblind.)

If there are any wispies, or frizzies, lightly spray with hairspray, all over.

There are a lot of videos on the internet that show this process and additional tricks to help you. Just do an internet search for “Ballet Bun”.